Among the many people living with severe asthma, Black women face unique challenges. It is not unusual for us to go years without a proper diagnosis, and finding the right treatment often requires some trial and error. Thankfully, all hope is not lost for people who are struggling to get control of their severe asthma. We spoke to Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq. and Janiya Watson, two inspiring Black women who suffer from severe asthma and have found strength, resilience and a sense of purpose in their journey.
Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq.
Juanita Ingram has a resume that will leave anyone speechless. Apart from recently being crowned Mrs. Universe, she is also an accomplished lawyer, filmmaker and philanthropist. From the outside looking in it seems there is nothing this talented woman won’t try and possibly succeed at. However, in her everyday life Juanita takes a lot of caution. Juanita has struggled with severe asthma since a young age. His symptoms always increased due to common illnesses like cold or flu. I’ve heard these stories of my struggles with breathing, but I remember vividly when I was younger I couldn’t breathe every time I had the virus, Ingram says. I remember missing a lot of school and crying a lot because asthma is painful. I [was taken] If I got sick with anything I had to see my doctor often, so I was hypervigilant as a child, and I still am.
Today, Juanita says her symptoms are best managed when she works closely with her care team, avoids getting sick, and stays ahead of any symptoms. Ingram said he has been blessed with skilled doctors who are as attentive to his symptoms as he is. While competing in the Mrs. Universe pageant, Juanita took extra precautions to stay away from other competitors to ensure she did not catch a cold or virus that would cause her severe asthma. I would stand aside and sometimes it could be taken to mean that oh, she thinks she’s better than everyone else. But if I fall ill during a competition, I’m done. I had to compete with this in mind because my disease doesn’t look like everyone else’s disease.
Even when her symptoms are under control, living with severe asthma still presents challenges. Juanita relies on her strong support system to overcome barriers created by the public’s lack of understanding, which I feel is a great lack of awareness of how serious asthma is. I will [also] Tell women to advocate for themselves and trust their intuition and don’t let anyone dismiss what you’re experiencing.
Jania, a content creator from Atlanta, Georgia, has suffered from severe asthma for several years. Thanks to early testing by asthma specialists, Janiya was diagnosed with severe asthma as a child after experiencing persistent asthma and challenges in her daily life. I remember specifically, I was starting school, and we were moving to a new house. One of the triggers for me and my little sister at that time was certain types of carpets. We had just moved into this new house and within a few weeks of us being there, my parents literally had to pay for all new carpet in the house.
As Jania grew older, she began to suffer fewer flare-ups and felt that her asthma was well controlled. However, a trip back to the doctor during high school revealed that her severe asthma was affecting her more than she realized. She explains that this was the first time in a long time that I had to take a breathing test. The doctor asked me to take a deep breath and blow into a machine to test my breathing. He told me to blow as hard as I could. And I was doing it. I was giving it everything I got. [My dad and the doctor] Was looking at me like girl, stop playing. and at that point [it confirmed] I still have severe asthma because I gave it my all. It doesn’t really go away, but I’ve just learned how to help manage it better.
Jania believes that people who are not living with asthma may not understand the disease and may mistake it for a less serious disease. Or there may be others who think their symptoms are minor, and not worth discussing. Therefore, for Jania, it is important to communicate with others about her diagnosis. having severe asthma [flare-ups] In some cases, it looks like it’s out of shape, he said. But this is a chronic disease I was born with. It’s something I live with and I’ve been dealing with. And I think that’s important for people to know because it determines the next steps. [They might ask] Do you need a water bottle, or do you need an inhaler? Do you need to take leave, or do we need to take you to the hospital? So, I think letting people around you know what’s going on, if anything does happen, plays a big role in that as well.
Like Juanita, Jania’s journey has been full of ups and downs, but she remains an unwavering advocate for asthma awareness and support within the Black community. She hopes her story can be an inspiration to other women with asthma whose symptoms are not yet under control. There is still life left to live without having severe asthma. It will always be there, but its purpose is not to stop you from living your life. That’s why learning to manage it and having that support system around you is so important.
By sharing their journeys, Juanita and Jania hope to encourage others to embrace their conditions, receive a proper management plan from a doctor or asthma specialist such as a pulmonologist or allergist, and contribute to improving asthma awareness and support. And not just within Black. community, but for all persons with severe asthma.
Read the stories of others like Juanita and Jania on Amgen.com, or visit Uncontrolled Asthma in Black Women | Break the cycle to find support and resources.
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